History of Lightning
The Smiths Recycling Milton Keynes Lightning are a professional ice hockey team from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, playing in the Elite Ice Hockey League.
MK Lightning’s home rink is the Planet Ice MK Arena, known locally as the Thunderdome, which has a capacity of circa 2,500.
MK Lightning was the most successful team in the history of the English Premier League; read on to review the Club’s statistics and history.
CLUB HONOURS & STATISTICS
Winners: 2004, 2005, 2010
Runners-up: 2003, 2009, 2016/17
Winners: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2016/17
Runners-up: 2009, 2010
Runners-up: 2003, 2007, 2010
2002 - 2006
FOUNDATION AND EARLY YEARS
Founded in 2002, MK Lightning moved into the empty space created by the departure of the Milton Keynes Kings. The MK Kings were involved in a dispute with rink operators Planet Ice, which led to their relocation to Solihull in May 2002. There they became the Solihull MK Kings before being wound up in April 2003, after a single season.
The demise of the Ice Hockey Super League in 2002-2003 led to major restructuring of Ice Hockey in the UK.
The Milton Keynes Lightning became a founding member of the new Elite Ice Hockey League but competed in the lower English Premier Ice Hockey League.
The first Lightning squad was made up of local players and three Canadian imports (Nick Poole as Player Coach, Claude Dumas and Dwayne Newman). MK Lightning finished their maiden season in second place, behind Peterborough Phantoms. The two teams met again in the play-off final, with MK Lightning winning the match.
A rivalry quickly grew between the two teams as they continued to dominate EPL Ice Hockey. MK Lightning were crowned league champions in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, as well as dominating the play-offs until 2006.
2006 - 2008
2006-2007 season was the first time MK Lightning struggled. A lack of new players, predictable tactics and an improved opposition were the main drivers.
The team ended the season in fifth place and were eliminated from the play-offs in the first round.
The situation worsened during the 2007-2008 season, with MK Lightning finishing in sixth place in the League. This resulted in a complete roster overhaul for the new season.
2008 - 2010
LIGHTNING RETURN TO SUCCESS
The Lightning squad for 2008-2009 included several experienced ex-Elite League players, some bright young British talent and several new European imports.
After a slow start, the new team dominated the second half of the season, finishing runners-up behind old rivals Peterborough.
They then met again in the play-off final with the Phantoms winning that encounter.
However, Lightning recovered to become the team to beat in 2009-2010, despite Elite league Basingstoke Bison and Manchester Phoenix joining the EPIHL.
Further squad strengthening helped Lightning to continue to dominate and a home win against Swindon Wildcats in March 2010 resulted in the EPIHL league trophy returning to Milton Keynes.
2010 - 2015
NEAR MISSES, UNEXPECTED CHANGES & DISAPPOINTMENT
Inconsistency led to a poor finish for MK Lightning in 2010-2011, with the team finishing in fifth place in the League, as well as losing the play-off final to Guildford Flames.
The team fared no better in 2011-2012, with MK Lightning once again finishing in fifth place, despite having led the league that December.
The team lost in the play-off quarter finals to eventual winners Slough Jets, despite taking a three-goal lead into the away leg.
The team’s 2012-2013 season was massively affected, when in January 2013 Nick Poole unexpectedly announced his immediate retirement from playing.
Lightning finished in fourth place and lost to Guildford Flames in the play-off semi-finals, despite arguably playing the better hockey.
The disruptions continued into the 2013-2014 season as home games were played in Coventry due to the renovation of the Milton Keynes rink. Due to a lack of practice ice time, the team struggled for consistency but finished in a credible fourth place. They were also the runners up to Basingstoke Bison in the Cup.
The 2014-2015 season started with Lightning continuing to play out of Coventry. Indifferent early form left the team languishing near the bottom of the league. The refurbishment of the Milton Keynes rink was completed a month into the season and the first game back on home territory was played on the 18th October 2014 against Sheffield Steeldogs in front of a capacity crowd of 2,500.
Despite the return to home ice, the Lightning continued to perform poorly. The loss of key players through roster changes and a series of injuries increased pressure on an already struggling team. As a result, Lightning finished the season in seventh place, their lowest ever position.
Despite poor league performances, Lightning defeated Guildford in the play-off quarter finals, before losing to Manchester Phoenix in the semi-finals.
2015 - 2017
MANAGEMENT CHANGE AND NEW PARTNERSHIPS
At the end of the 2014-2015 season it was announced that head coach Nick Poole would take over the duties of General Manager from Vito Rausa, with Team GB Coach Peter Russell taking on the role of Head Coach. This was shortly followed by the announcement in May 2015 that Milton Keynes Lightning would be forming a partnership with Elite League side, Coventry Blaze. This partnership lasted just one season.
The 2015-2016 season also saw a change from the traditional white, black and gold colours to a white, black and blue combination, reflecting the colours of main sponsor, local company Smith Recycling.
Despite a promising start, the season ended with MK Lightning managing only a slight improvement on their previous year’s final position, finishing in fifth place in the League. Lightning went on to qualify for the play-off final, losing to Guildford Flames, 6-2.
At the end of the season it was announced that from the start of the 2017-2018 season, MK Lightning would play in the Elite Ice Hockey League.
In November 2016, Nick Poole stepped down from the role of General Manager, citing that he wanted to pursue new challenges with his family outside of hockey. Lightning secured a second place league finish in their final EPL season and, on 18 March 2017, won their first EPL cup in a penalty shootout against old rivals, Peterborough.
In the play-off campaign, Lightning finished second in their group, winning five out of six games to qualify for the finals weekend.
Lightning would go on to win their fifth play-off title, beating Guildford 8-3 in the semi-final and then defeating Telford in the final, 7-2.
2017 - PRESENT
Move to Elite League Ice Hockey
Milton Keynes Lightning formally join the Elite League for the 2017-2018 season.
With this also came a change in ownership.
Planet Ice, the Milton Keynes Arena rink operators, who had run the franchise since its temporary use of the Coventry Sky Dome during the 2013-2014 season, sold the club to the Midlands-based husband and wife team, Graham and Monica Moody.
A new logo and uniform was introduced for the team, as well as a change to the roster to reflect and meet the demands of the Elite League, under the careful management of Head Coach, Peter Russell.